GUYANA and Saint Lucia have much in common — from 1964 marking reversals of voters’ verdicts after crucial elections in both British colonies, to the two respective Mothers of All Parties at home, today, both facing no-less-dispirited criticism from parties formed through hasty post-election alliances to reverse the democratic expressions of the people’s will.
In 1964, the People’s National Congress (PNC) joined the United Force (UF) to prevent the PPP from taking office despite winning the majority of seats.
That same year, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) was also prevented from taking office despite winning the most seats, through a similar post-election alliance (between the island’s People’s Progressive Party, the National Labor Movement and two ‘independents’) that created today’s opposition United Workers Party (UWP).
Guyana’s PPP and Saint Lucia’s SLP would spend long periods in opposition, the SLP returning to office much-earlier (in 1979) after 15 years and the PPP returning to office after 28 years in opposition, in 1992.
And since both parties ended their nightmare stays in opposition, they have been in and out of office through successive Regime Changes, their common historical fates again coming to the fore in 2020 and 2021.
In March 2020, the PPP/C alliance, in opposition, won the internationally-observed elections hands-down, free-and-fair, according to the reliable regional and international observer missions – bar none.
But the ruling APNU-AFC Alliance, in control of the national election machinery, claimed the opposition stole the poll — only to eat its words five months later.
The SLP, in opposition, contested the July 26, 2021 General Elections and won hands-down with a 13-4 majority, which later grew into a 15-2 parliamentary majority after two victorious ‘independent’ former UWP Cabinet ministers, including a former prime minister, joined the new ‘inclusive’ SLP cabinet.
In its first two years in office, the current PPP/C administration has concentrated on putting Guyana’s Oil & Gas fortunes to work for the majority, always insisting on “putting people first” on the dashboard of national development, posting success numbers and statistics that list Guyana as the world’s fastest-growing energy-based economy today, with one-third of the new oil extracted in 2021 and 2022 flowing up and out of Guyana’s ocean floors.
The figures and statistics quoted by the major oil publications and the regional and international economic commissions and financial agencies tell the pure truth about the real progress made on all fronts, thanks to how the current administration is handling the nation’s new-found oil wealth.
The figures are simply mind-blowing when compared with neighbouring non-oil producing Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states to its north; and Guyana is trying to avoid the fatal errors of Trinidad & Tobago and other developing oil-based nations that over-depended on their petro-dollars, at the expense of all else.
But, as also to be expected, Guyana’s opposition pours cold water on every achievement boasted by the government, or acknowledged by reputable international agencies; and always finds new arguments to claim this PPP/C administration either isn’t doing that well, selling-out to the oil majors, or not having done (or doing enough) to earn more oil tax revenues.
Same in Saint Lucia, where the UWP still hasn’t fully accepted its humiliating defeat 15 months ago, even though unable to question the results that gave the current SLP administration much more than a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Not a week has passed in the past year without the Office of Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister issuing Press Statements attesting to the Philip J. Pierre administration’s seriousness about delivering on its promises during the July 2021 election campaign — and since taking office a month later.
Every meeting of the House of Assembly (parliament) and Senate since August 2021 has featured discussion on Order Paper subjects officially identified as delivering on the ruling party’s election promises.
In most of the wider Caribbean and CARICOM democracies, like opposition parties can always be counted on to ‘oppose for opposing sake’ and making statements on national issues that suggest they were never in office.
But in Guyana and Saint Lucia today, the governments have been delivering on two major fronts their predecessors didn’t and which citizens, at home and abroad, appreciate: Fixing The Economy and Putting People First.
Both parties assumed office (in 2020 and 2021) with economies and most citizens ravaged by the COVID Pandemic, the Supply Chain crisis and the Ukraine War; and even though Guyana was better able to afford solutions that its small-island neighbours couldn’t, it too faced the same local effects of external problems the Caribbean didn’t contribute to, but is paying higher prices for than those responsible.
Halfway through the Philip J. Pierre administration’s first year in office, international agencies in the business of measuring national economic performance gave the new Saint Lucia government early taps-on-the-shoulder for its economic and financial performance.
But, unwilling to give Jack his Jacket, the opposition simply claimed the present government, after a full year, was still only reaping the benefits of its good fiscal management.
The Saint Lucia Prime Minister’s Office, on Monday, announced that “2022 is poised to end on an encouraging note” for islanders.
It said, “The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has indicated that GDP growth for the Caribbean region [excluding Guyana] is forecast at 3.1 per cent in 2022.
“But ECLAC has also revised Saint Lucia’s economic projections for 2022,” with “GDP growth on course to move upwards from 8% to 9.5%.”
ECLAC’s assessments are that Latin America and the Caribbean region will continue to endure unfavorable international conditions in 2023, which could slow economic expansion – except for Guyana.
The release added, “the Philip J. Pierre Administration’s strategic fiscal interventions and prudent monetary policies, as evidenced in 2022, are expected to shield Saint Lucia from some of the adverse impacts of inflationary pressures and volatility affecting international markets.”
Like with Guyana, the experts have again spoken loudly about the positive performance of the Saint Lucia economy.
And now for the detractions